The President sounded positively peevish yesterday. “You know,” he grumbled, “how much time do we need to see clearly that [Saddam’s] not disarming? As I said, this looks like a rerun of a bad movie and I’m not interested in watching it.” I’ve been saying for a while that George the Younger and his pals are living in a movie theater showing reruns of the American war and cowboy movies we baby-boomers grew up with. Evidently, he bought his popcorn (or was it pretzels) in preparation for the next flick and somehow he hasn’t been able to find the entrance to the multiplex where it’s showing. I’d be peevish too.
In the meantime, facing European leaders whose spines were unexpectedly stiffened by opinion polls (and demonstrations) showing that unheard of percentages of their populations opposed an American war in Iraq, press secretary Ari Fleischer assured us that our president would continue to work diligently to “put spine into the United Nations and the rest of the international community.”
As I took a flight over this vast, snowed in, still awesome continent of ours heading for a couple of weeks of teaching in California (which may make these dispatches a bit more erratic), I had my own spine stiffened a bit thanks to the latest Jackie Chan film showing just up the aisle (headset only $2). It turns out even Jackie knows what’s at stake in the world. He’s fighting an evil enemy who’s obviously read Mike Klare’s book, Resource Wars, and is trying to corner the (no kidding) bottled water market (and who, of course, is about to launch CBW warfare against the rest of our natural water supply). His Evilness’s best evil line: “We, my friends, are the new oil barons.” Well, not quite yet, but neither are the Busheviks — quite yet.
I was struck, in fact, by how little in recent months this administration has actually worked to make its case for war. Even Gerald Seib in his “Capital Journal” in the not exactly oppositional Wall Street Journal made the point today: “President Bush’s policy toward Iraq is in distress, and the reason is stunningly simple: His administration hasn’t made a very effective public case for war with Saddam Hussein.”
Yes, they finally trotted out Richard Armitage, deputy secretary of state, to make a speech yesterday, released a 32-page pamphlet, “Apparatus of Lies,” on Iraqi deceit, and announced the establishment of an Office of Global Communications to, as the New York Times put it, “guide United States government agencies in how to ‘disseminate truthful, accurate and effective messages about the American people and their government’ to audiences around the world,” and promised us all Paul Wolfowitz later in the week. And last night I listened to a Defense Department official sent onto the Lehrer NewsHour to insist, with a bit of fabulous imperial hubris, that European opinion, European anything — the Brits aside, of course — was of no, repeat no, not a whit, not a jot of importance.
And yet, here’s the odd thing, this administration has been nothing short of moribund in recent months in making their case. No real intelligence bombshells (true or not), no “smoking guns” (a strange movie image, by the way), just George expressing frustration and, of course, the constant build up of troops and equipment, of aircraft carrier task forces (now four going on six), planes, and missiles in the Gulf, as if the weight of our mobilization and the principle of brute force said all that needs be said.
As Lenin commented of the Russian army in World War I (if my memory serves me right), they voted with their feet. The Busheviks evidently thought well-booted feet were enough. It’s frustrating then to find other voices abroad and at home piping up. It’s enough to make you… well, go to war. Even Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld’s perky, stand-up comedy routine seems to be slipping beneath the waves. In the end, their case, their only case, really, is: We plan to do it and you midgets better step aside.
James Carroll, Boston Globe columnist, in another of his fine weekly pieces, this time from Jerusalem on an interfaith meeting at a moment of global desperation, comments that the “dogs of war” have been loosed on the world. How true. The other day, in a brief piece for the BBC, Noam Chomsky wrote, “You never need an argument against the use of violence, you need an argument for it. And the arguments that have been given for it are not convincing.” To read the Chomsky piece click here
Both comments couldn’t be more apt comments today. What the Bush administration has done since the attacks of September 11th is let those dogs of war — of preemption, of sauve qui peut weapons proliferation, of every country for itself and the empire decides all — loose in the world. There was enough violence and war there already, but our leaders managed to cancel out so many of the tentative steps toward some kind of multilateral action on proliferation and violence, including the bringing of war criminals and plain criminals like Saddam Hussein to eventual justice before the court of humanity, and raised brute force to the level of a first principle.
In the early sixties, the Kennedy counter-guerrilla warriors read Mao and Che; our warhawks seem intent on sticking to Hobbes and John Wayne. They’re only argument for violence is the supposed efficacy of violence itself. Just imagine if anyone had put half the resources and energy they’re putting into this war into organizing a different path toward taming monsters like Saddam and the proliferating weapons of destruction. Tom
Religions of peace
By James Carroll
The Boston Globe
January 22, 2003
JERUSALEM Dogs of war are baying across the hills. The United States and Israel conduct joint ”military exercises” as the region braces for America’s attack on Iraq. The Israeli Defense Forces maintain the clamp on occupied territories, and the runup to Israel’s decisive national elections invites a Palestinian act of terror.
Amid all of this, several dozen religious leaders from three traditionally antagonistic traditions gather at the 10th International Theology Conference at the Shalom Hartman Institute. Convened by Rabbi David Hartman, Jews, Christians, and Muslims take up esoteric questions of religious belief and practice, seeking to discover what they have in common and to honor what separates them.
Palestinians and Israelis, Americans, Europeans and Arabs of various nationalities – an absolutely astounding commingling of experience, politics, hurt, and dread. Professors from Al Quds, the leading Palestinian university, sit side by side with professors from Hebrew University.